Today, I’m in Cologne, Ger­many, speak­ing at the esteemed EMEA dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing con­fer­ence, DMEXCO, regard­ing the future of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and how data acti­va­tion is chang­ing the way mar­keters are achiev­ing results in ways we never thought possible.

Across the world, we are a group of dig­i­tally con­nected peo­ple. Those con­nec­tions – how they shift on a daily basis – are, in part, what bring us here to DMEXCO to learn from each other and take some insights back to our teams. This is a unique audi­ence – from com­Score to Face­book, to Omni­com to Foursquare – each com­pany has a diverse set of objec­tives as well as sim­i­lar ones, and that is what excites us at Adobe. Cus­tomers are much like the lead­ers in mar­ket­ing — their needs are slightly unique but we all are pur­su­ing mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions and sim­pli­fy­ing an increas­ingly com­plex land­scape. Data can help us do just that.

As I was fly­ing over from the U.S., I thought about an inter­est­ing con­cept a col­league and I recently talked about – the air­plane cock­pit. All of the but­tons, sys­tems, and tech­nol­ogy sig­nals pilots have to mon­i­tor. As mar­keters, we have a lot of tools, but it hardly feels like a mod­ern cock­pit. Sim­i­lar to a plane, mar­keters need to be able to instru­ment and run their cam­paigns, then shift to autopi­lot when needed, and safely land to deliver for their busi­nesses. But automa­tion can never sup­plant cre­ativ­ity, and that mix­ture of cre­ative genius and cutting-edge tools is what the best mar­keters have at their fingertips.

The most crit­i­cal ques­tion: At Adobe, the most crit­i­cal ques­tion that mar­keters have is around the effec­tive­ness of their cam­paigns. They want to know what worked and what didn’t. My per­sonal belief is mar­ket­ing has been slow to change, though it’s done so under the veil of near-constant inno­va­tions in tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal channels.

Where the answer lies: Data. To me, data acti­va­tion is the change agent that can drive real busi­ness impact. It gives us the power to really under­stand what is work­ing and what is not and receive those insights in real time. And then, like the early adopter can attest, the most impor­tant step is to act upon the data that mat­ters. Data has the abil­ity to become a com­mon cur­rency among mar­keters. Data lets mar­keters focus on cre­ativ­ity and put some of the guess work of what’s work­ing aside.

Three emerg­ing com­po­nents of the dig­i­tal ecosys­tem: We’ve iden­ti­fied three fast-growing crit­i­cal trends that have the longest range poten­tial to break through in new ways, and data is cer­tainly one of them:

1.  Per­son­al­iza­tion – our own expec­ta­tions for a per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ence have never been higher. We have never had what we have today, which is the con­sumer giv­ing us a ton of sig­nals telling us how they want to inter­act with us and what they want now and in the future. Per­son­al­iza­tion is all about reach­ing con­sumers on their terms and win­ning them over again and again, no mat­ter the chan­nel or the plat­form or the day, time, hour or location.

Our tech­nol­ogy has allowed the smart peo­ple over at Zalando to take an inte­grated approach when think­ing about per­son­al­iza­tion. Head­quar­tered in Berlin, and Europe’s top online fash­ion and shoe retailer, Zalando has quickly become one of the most pop­u­lar brands in Ger­many and through­out EMEA and is rec­og­nized as one of the best e-commerce sites in the industry.

One way we have watched them inno­vate using tech­nol­ogy is by look­ing at com­bin­ing their data sets – com­bin­ing search with Face­book and tra­di­tional ana­lyt­ics data – to cap­ture a more com­plete pic­ture of their cus­tomers and how they are using Zalando’s many dig­i­tal prop­er­ties. What they found was what works for Google does not work for Facebook.

They matched search data with Face­book data and it was then that they noticed a nuanced but crit­i­cal pat­tern – their most active users would search on Google, review the prod­uct via the Face­book page, and go back to Google later to find the site and buy the shoes.

Another inter­est­ing dis­cov­ery they found was on the Zalando India site. They knew men were doing the buy­ing on the site, but as they searched the inte­grated data deeper they found men were buy­ing women’s shoes. Was it a trend that men in India liked women’s shoe styles? That was unlikely. As they pulled together data from mul­ti­ple sources, the small nuances illus­trated the men as the pur­chasers at the point-of-sale but they were buy­ing for their wives who did the shop­ping and researching.

This small detail made a huge impact on how the brand evolved the check­out and shop­ping expe­ri­ence for its users in India. That’s the kind of approach that makes an expe­ri­ence per­son­al­ized – under­stand­ing the mar­ket nuances that can make a dif­fer­ence to the expe­ri­ence feel­ing tai­lored to the consumer.

2.  Mobile – reach­ing peo­ple through new for­mats. Mobile devices are being used uniquely, uncov­er­ing some pow­er­ful insights that offer action­able data around how peo­ple are engag­ing with brands through dif­fer­ent mobile devices. Let’s take the biggest broad­cast­ing event to date — the 2012 Lon­don Olympic Games. Although it is being hailed as the social Olympics, with 10M authen­ti­cated devices (almost 9x what Van­cou­ver expe­ri­enced), mobile played a big part in this event. We were for­tu­nate enough to work with the BBC and NBC on the Olympics Live Extra stream­ing video solu­tion. What we gain from some of the data around the Olympics is not just If the 219M peo­ple tun­ing in watched on mul­ti­ple devices but How they did.

  • The data shows we watched the games on mul­ti­ple screens and via the Olympics App – over 8M down­loads (5x Vancouver)
  • 1/3 of the entire BBC’s cov­er­age views were from mobile phones
  • Peo­ple took the Olympics with them for the first time. Con­sumers were able to access the games via their PC’s (peak­ing at lunchtime), mobile (peak­ing after work hours) and tablets (which peaked from 9–10 pm on average.)

3.  Acti­vat­ing your data – what ties it all together and brings mar­ket­ing to life across both offline and online chan­nels. As I’ve men­tioned, we are see­ing the smartest mar­keters engage in true data acti­va­tion. This is much more than just a look back­wards at what has hap­pened. Data acti­va­tion uses data in real time to influ­ence future out­comes — dri­ving mean­ing­ful busi­ness change and has the power to fore­cast future out­comes. It takes the guess­work out of Media Mix decision-making so mar­keters can focus on cre­ative expe­ri­ences and innovation.

With attri­bu­tion and fore­cast­ing, dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional are com­ing together. We can see how they tie together and how they work. And most impor­tantly, we can see how mar­ket­ing will most likely impact the bot­tom line of the busi­ness tomor­row. As we shift our think­ing around action­able data insights, we will con­tinue to see mar­keters earn and own their seat in the board­room, but, more impor­tantly, we will see the human side of brands reach out and con­nect with indi­vid­u­als beyond any­thing we are see­ing today.

In the fol­low­ing weeks, we will be post­ing some of the com­pelling case stud­ies that I’ll go over today at DMEXCO, so please check back. And I hope you will reach out and share your insights regard­ing how we can con­tinue to help shape the future of dig­i­tal marketing.